Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Krisann Janowitz: My Top Releases of 2015

January 6, 2016

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year writing reviews for Independent Clauses and discovering new music. The following is a list of my top five releases from what I have reviewed this year, including both full length albums and EPs. It was difficult to choose a top five since I have loved every artist I wrote about, but here are a few of my favorites.

  1. Paul Doffing – Songs from the (quaking) Heart (Review) Paul Doffing’s heartfelt release is, simply put, beautiful. As soon as I turn the album on, I feel so deeply that it almost brings me to tears every time. Not only the lyrics but the very instrumentation of Songs from the (quaking) heart exude raw emotion. Every time I listen, the album inspires me to go out to nature and write or paint.
  2. Jeremy Bass – New York in Spring (Review) This EP is quite a unique cup of tea, and I love it. Bass’ New York in Spring oozes the kind of whimsy that can brighten any day. My favorite track from the EP, “Work,” showcases the album’s bossa nova flair while containing a string of brilliantly crafted lyrics that sardonically comment on our relationship with the inevitable: work.
  3. The Lowest Pair- The Sacred Heart Sessions (Review) I remember the days when anything close to country music was something I did not listen to. Now, I find myself giddy over minimalist bluegrass album The Sacred Heart Sessions. Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee might be one of the best vocal pairings I have ever heard.
  4. Tidelands- Old Mill Park (Review) This EP also effortlessly interweaves both male and female vocals throughout. Yet, the unique mix of classical and rock instrumentation is really what makes this collection stand out. Every song has a distinctly different sound from the next. I shared a few of these tracks with my picky husband, and he loved them all.
  5. Thayer Sarrano- Shaky (Review) Hauntingly beautiful really is the best phrase to describe this album. This is yet another album that makes me feel deeply just from the instrumentation. Sarrano’s vocals and lyrics leave me truly awed. Shaky’s southern gothic sound makes me a little bit uncomfortable in the best way; in my opinion, the best art does.–Krisann Janowitz

Paul Doffing: Beauty Inspiring Beauty

July 22, 2015

doffing

What does environmental activism have to do with indie folk music? For Paul Doffing and his latest album, Songs from the (quaking) Heart, the two are inseparable. Songs from the (quaking) Heart chronicles Doffing’s experience bicycling 7,000 miles around the United States and performing shows at places like houses, libraries and farms. The album combines unadorned instrumentation with raw storytelling lyrics that make you forget all of life’s worries as you enter into a world of hope and simplicity.

Throughout the album, the instrumentation is plain and simple: acoustic guitar. Yet what Doffing does with the guitar is anything but simple. Acoustic guitar strumming (“Reason”) or intricate fingerpicking (“Sure Doesn’t Matter Any More”) beautifully begin each track off the album; Doffing’s voice typically follows after a few measures. A slight deviation, “New Day Dawning” begins first with birds chirping–fitting for the title and optimistic feel of the song–then the guitar enters and the voice enters.

The two instrumental tracks (“The Drifter,” “(No Path Up) Cold Mountain”) are even larger exceptions to that rule. In both songs, Doffing tells the story through the fingerpicking done on his guitar instead of with lyrics. The title “The Drifter” gives away a bit of the storyline, but it’s as if each pluck of the guitar tells us a different aspect about this “Drifter.” Specifically in the chorus, lower register notes seem to remind the listener that even though some parts of the Drifter’s life are good, there does remain a level of drudgery in the end. Some plucking is done in the lower register of the acoustic, while other plucks venture to higher notes, appearing slightly more hopeful. “(No Path Up) Cold Mountain” tells a very different, more pleasantly adventurous story with its guitar melodies and plucking rhythms. It’s really amazing how Doffing tells us stories through an instrument, no lyrics needed.

Two tracks off Songs from the (quaking) Heart tell stories with instruments; the rest do it with lyrics. Generally, Doffing’s voice is crisp and easily understood, making it easier for the listener to catch all of the lyrics and the stories they tell. For example, “The Legend of Mick Dodge” tells the titular story through Doffing’s reverent perspective. The exception is found in “Reason,” where Doffing’s voice is synthesized, so it’s more difficult to hear the lyrics.

“Sure Doesn’t Matter Anymore” stands out in the tone of the story that Doffing tells us. Although some details are left out, in this song I thought of the brilliant “based on a true story” book/movie Into The Wild. Picture those scenes where Chris McCandless begins to get lonely, and his latest kill starts to spoil with a meat-worm infestation. This is where Chris begins to truly learn that living off the land in Alaska is not what will fix all of life’s problems. “Sure Doesn’t Matter Anymore” speaks into that situation and solemnly explains that “Nothing that we cling to ever sets us free.” No offense, Eddie Vedder, but I think Songs from the (quaking) heart should have totally been the movie score for Into The Wild.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, “New Day Dawning” and “Slow I Go” tell much happier stories. “New Day Dawning” narrates those days where you wake up, “the sun is shining down on me” and you feel “so free.” Similarly, “Slow I Go” begins as a sort of self-pep talk, and, as the multiple voices enter in, the hope is extended to all. This then culminates in the outro repetition of the phrase, “We’ll change the world.” Listen to “Slow I Go”  and hear the notes of hope for yourself.

Songs from the (quaking) heart makes me want to grab a journal and head to the woods to write poetry. Paul Doffing’s music is not only inspirational, but his life is too. You can even read his bicyling/music tour blog and learn the true stories behind Doffing’s contemplative songs. Paul Doffing and his Songs from the (quaking) heart is one of the few albums that truly provokes me to create art as a response to art. I encourage you to do the same. —Krisann Janowitz

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archives